I took a different route to work this morning, since I had a little more time on my hands. My usual route is beginning to bore me. It's right along the highway with all of the noise and traffic, only separated from me with a clumsy chain fence. When the highway gets too heavy with traffic, it spills over on to the access roads where you can almost go twice as fast as on the interstate. Fernandina has no sidewalk, just a ditch one side and wide brambles on the other, with a tiny brown path paved with wear. Ugly little businesses for machinery and computers have pitched up between the flimsy apartment complexes and the long billboards. With the rain flooded from last night, my walk will be riddled with ponds and mud.
So I took the opposite path. Beatty is very slow in the mornings and exceptionally slow on a Sunday. I wore a green cardigan and a light cap, but mostly for whatever chill might come tonight on my way home. This morning it's only the slightest bit cold, and refreshing with the mugginess and thickness of the air. Large drops grow then fall with a plump from the heavily dampened trees. The water glistens on the road; it follows me, shimmering, as I stroll down the hill and trickles together under my feet. As I cross the bridge and turn left, the stream below has transformed overnight into a gurgling, growling monster, tearing through the tree roots and churning mud and branches in its chaos.
I hadn't walked this road since Philippe and I parted ways at the crest of the hill. I've never walked it in the winter. The trees hang heavy with rain over the road, their skeletonal limbs shading my path with fat, cold droplets landing in my hair and along my path houses are nicer, fuller and more colorful than I remember.
As I walked I thought about what work would be like, after the scare of last night. I wondered what stories I would hear and thankful again I wasn't there. I began to think how safe it is I walk alone so much, and how dumb and selfish people are to shoot guns off in a public place.
Two guys had a fist fight at the mall I work in. Apparently they got so mad about whatever they were fighting about that they pulled their guns out and shot into the air, not hurting anyone. So, the entire mall hears gunshots and responds accordingly. It evacuated itself, with a lot trampling and shoving, except the stores which immediately locked their gates and hid in the back.
Our manager is a little shy. He's a history major with a long Georgia drawl, and for the most part he hates being the manager for the store. I think authority fits oddly on his shoulders; he'd rather follow directions than give them, and he's a little ADHD at work. I have the same problem. He is not loud and authoritative and take-action by nature. But this time he immediately pulled the doors shut, locked them, and told everyone to move to the back when he saw people running. He knew exactly what to do and he did it immediately.
My co-worker Jay probably had the most dramatic story. My manager said jokingly to go ahead and take his lunch, to which Jay replied he'd never come back. As he was leaving he noticed people starting to rush, and as he was exiting the building he go pushed from behind. he heard people shouting about a shooting, and he ran through the woods to the movie theater, where he got a ride home from his boyfriend.
Everyone else stayed in the back, trying to keep idiotic customers under control. Maria took a lot of snap-chats. I texted the new girl telling her she had a great first day (even though she was hating it). She texted back, telling me she was hiding in the back-room. She really was having a terrible day. We had all had terrible days leading up to this, because Saturdays are chaos at our store.
I keep thinking about how many kids I gave Frappuccinos to that day, and how annoyed I was about them. For all of that I'm so glad none of them got hurt, that nobody got hurt. Otherwise all these stories that we're talking about over our morning coffee would be in hushed voices and sympathetic words.
I thought that coming to the store after what happened would make me feel scared, but I actually felt much safer than I had before. So many shootings happen all over the world at complete randomness I've already come to terms with the fact one might happen at my store or in my city. It really is quite likely, knowing the people who live here. I realized how foolish it is to pull your gun out threateningly in this state, however; the cops were there within 5 minutes of the shots fired, and in the end three districts of police were there frisking people who were leaving the building and setting up a perimeter. Three roads were shut down and traffic everywhere in the city was bad.
My bus is late and crowded, but everything feels the same. Traffic is normal; the rain had ended. When I walked up to the mall the parking lot was already half full, the looming evidence of the inevitably bad day I was going to have. I guess people still need to shop, but it seems so disrespectful. As I sit and drink my tea and listen to the voices around me: "were you here last night?" "Makes no sense!" "I just left work before it happened.""I saw people running." So we talk it over our coffee the next morning.